Skip to main content

'Abdullah was just catching fish': Gazan fisherman killed by Egypt laid to rest

The 33-year-old father of four Abdullah Zeidan died after being shot in the chest when working at sea on Friday evening
Abdullah Zeidan's mother, Maryam Zeidan, looks at his shrouded body (MEE contributor)

Gaza City - Since dawn on Saturday morning, hundreds of young people were seen streaming through the alleys of Gaza's impoverished al-Shati refugee camp, heading to the home of fisherman Abdullah Zeidan.

But they were not curious as to the size of his latest catch, a common boast from 33-year-old Zeidan. They were there to pay respects to his family, after he died early in the morning, succumbing to his wounds after being shot off the coast of Gaza a day earlier. 

In front of his house, in the largest of the Gaza strip’s eight camps, neighbours set up a condolence tent and put out rows of chairs to accommodate the mourners.

The fishermen's family watched the crowds through upstairs windows, stunned.

While Gazan fishermen are often attacked and killed by the Israeli navy, Zeidan was targeted by the Egyptian army, according to local Palestinian authorities. 

When fishing near the southern border between Gaza and Egypt on Friday night, Zeidan was hit in the chest by a bullet, the Gazan Health Ministry said in a statement.

"What was his sin?" asked his grieving mother, Maryam Zeidan.

"He was just trying to be the breadwinner for his four children." 

Locals watch the funeral procession on Saturday (MEE contributor)

Trying to avoid the restrictions imposed by the Israeli navy, her late son believed the Egyptians would be less severe. 

"My son joined this profession when he was 15 because there were no other jobs available," said his father, Ramadan. 

As mourners gathered, Ramadan wondered aloud: "Why would an unarmed fisherman be shot dead?

"He did not offend the Egyptian Arab Army ... he was fishing inside Palestinian waters."

He did not offend the Egyptian Arab Army ... he was fishing inside Palestinian waters

- Ramadan Zeidan, Abdullah's father

He urged the Egyptian authorities to open an urgent investigation into the circumstances surrounding his son’s death, and for those responsible to be brought to justice.

Gaza's interior ministry said an initial investigation indicated "the Palestinian fishing boat did not cross the Egyptian (maritime) border".

"We call on the Egyptian authorities to open an urgent investigation into this incident," spokesman Iyad al-Bozum said in a statement.

Egyptian officials have made no immediate comment on the incident.

Around 3,000 fishermen are working along Gaza's 40km-kilometre-long shore, according to the Gazan Fishermen's Union, under tight restrictions imposed by Israeli army, including limiting the fishing area to just under 10km and often arresting fishermen.   

Gaza's boats in the harbour on Saturday, after the union declared they would halt work in protest at the killing (MEE contributor)

Egyptian naval forces have previously opened fire on Gazan fishermen they accused of crossing the maritime border.

Gazan fishermen say that the limited fishing zone is not wide enough to meet the demands of the coastal strip's 2 million residents.

Nezar Ayyash, the head of Gaza fishermen union, announced a halt in fishing until Sunday evening in protest at the killing.

Cairo's authorities have been battling militants in the restive northern Sinai for years, and as part of that crackdown have created a buffer zone with Gaza and boosted maritime security.

In 2017 Israel killed two Gazan fishermen and detained 39; it also seized 13 boats and destroyed seven others, according to the Al Mezan for Human Rights Center.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.